HSBC's female staff in the UK earn 59% less than men

HSBC has unveiled a yawning gender pay gap among its UK staff with female workers earning nearly 60% less than men.

Figures from Europe's biggest bank showed a gap in average hourly pay of 59% last year, making it one of the worst offenders in the UK banking industry.

The gulf was even more stark when focusing on bonuses alone. On this measure, awards trousered by male workers were 86% higher than those handed out to women.

HSBC said it had fewer females in senior roles despite women accounting for 54% of its total UK workforce. Only 23% of the bank's top brass in the UK are women.

Elaine Arden, HSBC's group head of human resources, said: "We are confident in our approach to pay and if we identify any pay differences between men and women in similar roles, which cannot be explained by reasons such as performance/behaviour rating or experience, we make appropriate adjustments."

HSBC circulated the information in an internal memo on Thursday ahead of a Government deadline of April 4 when all organisations with 250 staff or more are expected to publish their gender pay gap figures.

On a median basis - which takes the middle number from a list of the lowest and highest values - HSBC's hourly gender pay gap and bonus gap was 29% and 61% respectively.

The lender came under fire shortly after the data was reported, with prominent businesswoman Gina Miller tweeting: "Shame on #HSBC - it is simply taking too long to close the #GenderPayGap."

While the Government move is designed to highlight the pay gulf between the sexes, it is different from equal pay which tackles the difference between men and women who carry out the same job.

More than 1,000 organisations have published gender pay gap figures, with Government data showing around three in four are paying male employees more than female colleagues.

Based on median hourly earnings, 74% of companies pay men more than women, while 15% pay women more than men and 11% report no difference.